If you’ve ever wasted your breath on the phrase, “The check is in the mail,” now’s the time to stop: Several apps allow you to make simple mobile payments instead. These apps streamline the mobile payment process, often requiring only the email address or mobile phone number of the recipient. They may also be the cheapest way to send money — in fact, many of the services are free for personal use.
Also known as peer-to-peer payment services, money-sending apps are handy in a number of situations. Whether you want to send a monetary gift for your niece’s birthday, painlessly split a restaurant bill with friends, or even pay your rent without ordering a new checkbook, the best way to send money may just be one of the apps below.
The Best Ways to Send Money
Below are six of the best apps for simple mobile payments. All have their own pros and cons, but their shared strength is certainly convenience. None of the apps below requires you to have a specific banking relationship, though many banks have their own payment services — more on those in a moment.
Venmo offers an impressively seamless and low-cost way to send money to anyone using just their email address or phone number. The app also integrates with Facebook and your phone contacts so you can see who else is using Venmo. You’ll even be able to see what your friends are paying for with Venmo in a newsfeed when you open the app. Much like Facebook, you can “like” or comment on their transactions. (If you aren’t feeling so social, don’t worry — the amount spent isn’t public and you can also turn off the feature entirely.)
Receiving mobile payments is always free. Sending them is also free if you’re using your Venmo balance, a linked bank account, or a debit card from one of about 30 major banks. Otherwise, there’s a 3% fee if you use a credit card or other debit card.
Bottom line: Venmo is as much a social app as it is a financial one. You may find this aspect fun — or completely unnecessary. Default settings are public, so if you’d rather not broadcast your transactions to friends, you’ll need to change them, or choose another app.
If you can send an email, you can send money via Square Cash. All you need is your recipient’s email address and your own debit card number. The recipient doesn’t need a Square Cash account, and there are no middlemen to slow down the transaction, which is immediate.
You can even set up a “$Cashtag” that is essentially your own URL for accepting payments. Share it on social media or in the real world, and payees can quickly enter their debit card number and the amount they’re paying. Square Cash has also recently partnered with Snapchat, allowing you to send mobile payments through the popular chat service, too.
Square Cash doesn’t charge a dime unless you use the business version of the service to request payment. Then you’ll pay 2.75% per transaction.
Bottom line: Square Cash is free — hard to beat that — and it’s the easiest-to-use service on our list. Since there’s no Square Cash account, you don’t have the extra step of withdrawing money from that account. However, if you don’t want to send or receive cash via debit card, you’re out of luck.
Also, you’ll want to make sure you have as much security as possible to protect your email account, since anyone who has access to your email will be able to access your debit card without knowing the number.
With Dwolla, you can send money to anyone with an email address, phone number, or Dwolla ID. You’ll need to link your bank account to Dwolla, and you can keep a balance using the service for future payments. Its features include MassPay, which allows you send thousands of payments at once, and recurring payments.
Dwolla also offers a range of services for businesses and nonprofits; paying $250 a month, for instance, can get a business next-day transfers, higher transaction limits, and priority customer support.
For personal use, it’s now free to send money to someone with Dwolla. The company has dropped a 25-cent fee that it used to charge for transactions over $10.
Bottom line: Dwolla seems a bit more geared toward businesses than individuals, but it’s still a strong offering. It’s hard to beat free, especially if you’re sending a significant amount of money — but consider that bank transfers are also free with Venmo, PayPal, and Google Wallet. Your recipient will need to sign up with Dwolla, too.
You may not have heard of some of the other apps on this list, but chances are by now you have a PayPal account. PayPal is definitely the most entrenched player in the market, and you can send a substantial amount of cash via the service: up to $10,000. You can also send money abroad to anyone with an email address or mobile phone number in more than 190 countries. PayPal even supports more than 20 currencies.
PayPal is free, but only if you’re using your PayPal balance or a linked bank account for transfers. Otherwise, it’s not the cheapest way to send money: You’ll pay 2.9% per transaction plus a flat 30-cent fee when you use a debit or credit card. Outside the U.S., there is a fee ranging from 0.5% to 2% for PayPal- and bank-funded transfers, or 3.4% to 3.9% for debit and credit card transfers.
Bottom line: There is a certain comfort in going with a known entity such as PayPal for your mobile payment. If you need to send some serious cash (up to $10,000 per transaction, with no cap on total transactions) or send it abroad, you can do that here. However, the fees are high for card-funded transactions. Also, if you need to send money to someone without a PayPal account, they’ll have to sign up for one to receive your payment.
You can send and receive money via Google Wallet if you have an existing Google account; if not, you’ll need to sign up. After that, you can link your bank account or debit card to your account and use them to send money to any email address. Gmail users can even send money in email messages.
You can also keep a balance in Google Wallet and link that to a Google Wallet card, which you can use to make purchases and ATM withdrawals. Some merchants and phones also support a Tap and Pay function that lets you keep your real wallet in your pocket.
It’s free to send money through Google Wallet if you’re using your Google Wallet balance or a linked bank account. Otherwise, the fee is 2.9% per transaction if you’re using your debit card.
Bottom line: Google Wallet has a lot of nice extras that make it far more useful than just a way to send mobile payments. However, you won’t be able to send money using a credit card, and the debit-card payment fee is fairly high. Google’s allowance of up to 10 days for a bank transfer is also disconcerting.
In 2015, social media juggernaut Facebook introduced a free, simple mobile payment feature to Facebook Messenger. Once you add enter your debit card information (from a U.S. bank), sending money is easy as clicking a small dollar-sign icon in Messenger, entering an amount, and tapping pay. The recipient simply has to add his or her own debit card information to receive the payment. The service is free, though it can take up to three days for banks to process.
Bottom line: Given Facebook’s expansive reach — with 1.7 billion active users as of 2016 — its online money service could rival or eclipse Square Cash for ease of use. The fact that it’s completely free doesn’t hurt, either. Of course, you’ll have to be comfortable forking over your debit card number (the service doesn’t allow any other payment type) and both you and the recipient need a Facebook account.
Facebook does allow users to add a PIN number to ease security concerns, and all Facebook users can take advantage of login approvals that require extra verification if you’re on a different computer or mobile device.
|Platforms||Fees||Speed||Limits||Keep balance in app?||Other notes|
|Venmo||iOS, Android||Free for major debit cards and bank transfers or if using Venmo balance; 3% for credit cards and non-major debit cards||1-2 days||$299.99 weekly for unverified accounts; $2,999.99 weekly for verified accounts||Yes||Facebook-like news feed shows friends’ transactions|
|Square Cash||iOS, Android||Free for personal use; 2.75% for businesses||1-2 days after first linking card; after that, usually instant||$250 weekly for unverified accounts; $2,500 weekly for verified accounts||No||Supports debit cards only|
|Dwolla||iOS, Android||Free for personal use; rates up to $1,500 a month for very large businesses||3-4 days||$5,000 per transaction; no cap on total sent||Yes||Supports bank transfers only|
|PayPal||iOS, Android, Windows Phone||Free bank and balance transfers for personal use; 2.9% plus 30 cents for debit and credit cards or businesses||3-4 days||$10,000 per transaction; no cap on total sent per verified account||Yes||Allows international transactions|
|Google Wallet||iOS, Android||Free bank and balance transfers; 2.9% for debit cards.||Up to 3 days for balance and debit cards;
3-10 days for bank transfers
|$10,000 per transaction; $50,000 per 5-day period||Yes||Integrates with Gmail; can get Google Wallet card to pay with balance; no credit cards|
|iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Blackberry||Free||1-3 days||Unknown||No||Supports debit cards only|
How to Send Money to Someone Through a Major Bank
Keep in mind that a bank transfer may be the best way to send money if you want to pay someone who does business at the same bank that you do. It’s fast — usually less than a day — and typically easy to accomplish through your bank’s online portal or app.
Most banks are also streamlining the process of sending money to others regardless of where they bank, though. Here’s a rundown of your peer-to-peer payment options at some of the nation’s major retail and online banks. Most of these services are free for customers and available via each bank’s mobile banking app.
- Ally: If you bank with Ally, you have free access to Popmoney, which allows you to send simple mobile payments to anyone as long as you have their phone number, email address, or bank information. There is no separate Popmoney account — your requests are linked straight to your Ally accounts.
- Bank of America: Bank of America uses clearXchange for peer-to-peer payments via its online banking portal. Under the transfers tab, customers can select a “send money” option and enter the recipient’s email address or phone number. If the recipient isn’t receiving money through a participating bank, they will have to register with clearXchange.
- Capital One 360: The Person2Person service lets Capital One 360 checking customers send money to anyone with an email address. The money is available almost immediately if you send it to another Capital 360 customer; otherwise, it takes up to two business days.
- Chase: Chase QuickPay allows Chase customers to send and receive money for free. (Non-Chase customers can also use the service to send money if the recipient has a Chase checking account.) All you’ll need is a valid email address and the email address of the other party.
- U.S. Bank: U.S. Bank’s Pay a Person is powered through Popmoney, and allows customers to send money to anyone with an email address, phone number, or valid bank account. However, there are fees to use the service, and they depend on how much you send your money and how fast you want it sent (options are immediate delivery, next-day delivery, or standard delivery, which takes up to three business days).
- Wells Fargo: Wells Fargo customers can access Wells Fargo SurePay under the transfers tab of their online banking portal. They can send mobile payments to anyone with an email address or phone number in one to two business days. Recipients will be required to register with the service to receive the payment.
Don’t see your bank listed above? Check its website to see whether it offers some sort of peer-to-peer payment service. Remember, this may be your cheapest way to send money since most banks don’t charge their customers for these services.
There Are More Ways to Send Money Than Ever Before
Whether you need to send your friend $25 for a concert ticket or your contractor $5,000 for a hefty home repair, there’s an app that’s up to the task.
In fact, the most difficult part of sending money these days may be convincing the recipient that the service is legit — PayPal, Google, and Facebook may be the only companies on this list with widespread name recognition. Assuming you can get friends and family on board, any of the apps I profiled above are great choices for a simple mobile payment.